No "Breakdown" in Support For ILA Against USMX; Labor Groups From Across the Globe Pledge Support
While the ILA is discouraged over the "take it or leave it" approach by United States Maritime Alliance that abruptly ended the scheduled negotiations this past Wednesday, August 22nd, the longshore union is energized by the countless expressions of support and vows of solidarity from other unions across the country and around the world.
The ILA has been guaranteed support from the powerful International Dockers Council (IDC), a worldwide labor organization representing dockworkers from around the world. The ILA recently voted to affiliate with the IDC and Kenny Riley, an ILA Vice President and East Coast Zone Coordinator for the IDC, is coordinating solidarity efforts between the two organizations.
The ILA regretted the inaccurate and misleading document USMX issued after negotiations broke down the past Wednesday. The ILA quickly responded to the USMX document, delivering a powerful counter statement. It read in part:
USMX's tactic of presenting averages for wages and benefits without explaining how these averages were derived are meant to inflame the general public who has no knowledge of the longshore industry. USMX uses this incomplete picture to distort the wage and benefits structure. USMX fails to note that longshore labor cost amounts to between 3% and 4% of the shipper's total cost. Unlike other hourly workers who work a 40-hour workweek, most longshore workers make themselves available for work on a daily basis. Early on, the ILA negotiated a guarantee of a day's pay. Otherwise, the employer had no obligation to pay if a vessel did not arrive on schedule.
When containerization started the ILA was faced with a huge displacement of worker whose jobs were eliminated by the ominous steel boxes. The ILA was at a crossroad - allow containerization to be implemented or refuse. The ILA agreed to allow containerization to flourish but negotiated a fee based on the weight of each loaded container to be used for annual payments to the longshore workers whose job opportunities had been compromised due to containerization. As the number of containers being handled increased, the negotiated payment for each worker increased. Rather than being an annual bonus for each worker, as USMX suggests, this payment is compensation for the job opportunities lost by permitting containerization.
The coast wide average of wages and benefits of $124,138 focuses only on containerized cargo where wages and benefits are substantially higher than the wages and benefits paid for break-bulk cargo which is handled piece by piece because fewer workers are used on containerized cargo. Including the wages and benefits of those longshore workers who work break-bulk cargo would result in a substantially lower average since this cargo is handled at lower wage and benefit levels. Likewise, the average hourly rate of $50 apparently includes straight time and overtime hours and once again incudes only containerized cargo. It should be noted parenthetically that the health care benefits of ILA workers are those that all Americans will enjoy when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.
Finally, with respect to the port of New York and New Jersey, USMX does not mention that these annual wages do not include substantial amounts of overtime pay. USMX also does not mention that management representatives have testified at administrative hearings that management prefers to keep one employee on overtime rather than two workers on straight time thereby resulting in these inflated annual wages.
USMX should stop the inflammatory rhetoric and return to the bargaining table with realistic demands. USMX should recognize that it cannot change overnight benefits that were achieved over many years of collective bargaining.